Dissociative disorders are becoming more understood in the public sphere. Still, those with dissociative disorders are having to overcome the stigmas that have long been associated with having this type of disorder. These stigmas primarily stem from the way that dissociative disorders were previously classified as “multiple personality disorders.” Now, while the term “multiple personality disorder” is not necessarily harmful on its own, what is harmful is the misrepresented behaviors that have long been associated with it.
Exaggerated behaviors including excessive violence and oversimplified “character-changing” have been sensationalized in popular media. Because of this, individuals struggling with dissociative disorders were either taken less seriously or approached with hesitance and mistrust. Yes, public attitudes are indeed shifting, but they must continue to do so. Dissociative disorders are serious issues of mental health that affect many people. These people include a significant number of the adolescent population.
What Are Dissociative Disorders?
One of the best ways to get beyond a stigma of a certain mental illness is to obtain a broad understanding of the illness from a trusted and respected source. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “Dissociative disorders involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self.” Also, “Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt every area of mental functioning.”
Now, while a broad understanding of dissociative disorders is a great place to start, it is also important to understand that there are different types of diagnoses under the dissociative disorder umbrella. These are dissociative identity disorder, depersonalization/derealization disorder, and dissociative amnesia disorder. All of these have their own warning signs and symptoms. Also, all of those affect those in the adolescent population.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Perhaps the most well-known dissociative disorder is dissociative identity disorder (DID). This is the primary disorder that was categorized as “multiple personality disorder.” It is also considered by many to be the most severe of the dissociative disorders (not to minimize the others, of course). Also, DID most often arises out of severe instances of childhood trauma.
According to Dissociative Identity Disorder by Paroma Mitra and Ankit Jain, individuals diagnosed with DID often dissociate from their bodies, distort reality, alter their identities with specific names and “personalities,” and often show a “lack of external stability,” It should also be noted that while DID often begins in adolescence, it is often discovered later in life.
Now, depersonalization/derealization disorder has more to do with the feeling of detachment from one’s body or thoughts. Also, the derealization aspect of the disorder has to do with feelings of detachment from one’s surroundings. This is also more commonly found in younger people than DID.
Many people who struggle with depersonalization/derealization disorder often describe their feelings as being more physical. For example, they may express that they feel physically numb or larger or smaller than what their body actually is. Also, the “derealization” symptoms may manifest in the form of distorting the passing of time and/or distorting distances and sizes. If a child expresses these feelings, it is important to seek mental health care sooner than later.
Dissociative Amnesia Disorder
The final disorder to note is dissociative amnesia disorder. This disorder is perhaps the easiest disorder to understand. That is because there appears to be a more direct link between this dissociative disorder and instances of trauma.
Dissociative amnesia disorder is when an individual experiences long periods of memory gaps. While this may sound like a typical symptom of amnesia, with dissociative amnesia these memory gaps are specific to the memories associated with the individual’s experiences of trauma.
The Long-Term Recovery Mission at Clearview Girls Academy
As far as whether or not one should be concerned about dissociative disorders affecting their child, the answer is not so black and white. As the previously aforementioned descriptions show, dissociative disorders can be serious. Therefore, if a child is displaying symptoms of any of these disorders, it should certainly be concerning and help should be sought.
However, it is also important to note that dissociative disorders are often misdiagnosed as other mental health disorders. If a child is exhibiting these symptoms, it may not necessarily mean that a dissociative disorder is present. That does not mean any different action should be taken, however. As with all issues of mental health, reaching out to professional care can greatly reduce the chances of long-term effects.
Our mission at Clearview Girls Academy is to help all of our students recover from their issues of mental health and/or life-controlling issues by all the means at our disposal. If we do not have the means, then we feel it is our duty to help an individual find the right place for them. This includes potential students who are struggling with dissociative disorders. Our mission has always been to light our students’ path to recovery. The first step is for our students to seek out our light that is always waiting for them.
Many people outside of the mental health field don’t understand exactly what dissociative disorders are and what symptoms they include. However, it is important for parents and caretakers to understand that dissociative disorders also exist among adolescents. Being able to spot the warning signs and symptoms of dissociative disorders can be crucial in getting your daughter help ASAP. If you feel like your daughter may be struggling with issues of mental health, please know that you are not alone. We can help your daughter and your whole family achieve the type of long-term recovery you all deserve. For more information on dissociative disorders in teens, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.